A conversation with Michael Bialek, Founding Director, Architecture at SJB

SJB and Pace have a decade-long relationship that imagines what a building could be rather than what it should be. We spoke with Michael Bialek (SJB, Founding Director) about recent projects, including Pace of Abbotsford (Winner, Excellence in Highrise Apartment Buildings, 2020 from Master Builders Victoria association).

Pace of Abbotsford was the first significant project of scale in the precinct, involving the integration of St Crispin House. SJB designed a solution that respects Abbotford’s industrial past while adding modern amenities – specifically, a rooftop infinity pool.

‘We’d incorporated semi-industrial concrete screens along the facade as a reference to materiality within the urban precinct … To break up the scale of the tower, we’d designed two-storey terraces as well as apartments … unexpected in builds of this kind.’

Pace of Collingwood is a residential building on the cusp of a warehouse-filled block. Its long, south-facing facade is broken up by distinctive brickwork while upper levels feature beautiful, New York loft-style apartments underneath a landscaped roof with a pocket park.

‘A shared entrance welcomes tenants, making them feel at home, rather than at their tower … Browns, tans and pale greys retain the warmth and textural qualities of a residential area in a precinct with a lot of commercial buildings.’

"You won’t see any buildings that look like a “Pace” or an “SJB” building – they’re all contextually relevant to the fabric and character of the area."

Diagonally opposite is 51 Langridge, a project demonstrating Australian excellence while paying respects to the building’s history. SJB have incorporated heritage elements in its arched, knockout opening on the ground level, while a striking, bright green staircase contrasts the south facade as a celebration of movement.

‘We’ve jumped right out of the box with sustainability, incorporating landscaping into the facade and rooftop. Pace encouraged our unusual detailing, from a shifting precast stamp pattern in the tower to the bricks and moulds around the windows that reflect concrete lintels in surrounding factories.

Currently, SJB are working on a placemaking project in Coburg – the largest Pace project of its kind. With substantial residential and retail spaces, this build is designed to connect – drawing energy through the area to complement the community.

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